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GOP candidates latch on to Scott Brown

A slate of newly energized Republicans liken themselves to the Massachusetts senator-elect, or emphasize their connections to him, hoping to replicate his surprise victory.

January 23, 2010|By James Oliphant

Reporting from Washington — Republican candidates for Congress are latching onto Scott Brown's bolt-from-the-blue win this week in the Massachusetts Senate race, with political outsiders and longtime office-holders alike casting themselves in a similar mold -- or seeing him in their image.

Brown was a fairly obscure state senator who shocked the Democratic favorite, Martha Coakley, in the race to replace the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) by employing a tightly focused, populist, anti-Washington message. His victory has energized Republicans nationwide.

Brown's unlikely success drew on support from moderates and conservatives, meaning that both camps have found something to emulate in his win. He has become a sensation in a party that has been eager for new stars.

"I don't know too many candidates who haven't seized on Scott Brown," said Jennifer Duffy, a political analyst in Washington. "If I hear one more time that someone is the next Scott Brown, I'm going to lose my mind. These things are not easily replicated."

In Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist, a moderate Republican running for U.S. Senate, was quick to telephone Brown after his win. Crist's conservative GOP rival, Marco Rubio, had asked his supporters to send money to Brown.

Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.) is running against a field of challengers to secure the GOP nomination for Senate in his home state, which has voted overwhelmingly Democratic in recent years. He spoke to Brown on Thursday, when the new senator visited Washington for the first time.

"If it can happen in Massachusetts, it can happen in Illinois," Kirk said in an interview. Kirk said that he and Brown were both social moderates who are fiscally conservative and strong on national security.

In California, all three Republicans vying to take on Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer have pointed to Brown's win.

Former Rep. Tom Campbell, who entered the race this month, likened himself to Brown in a statement, saying that he "was the only candidate for Senate with a proven record of fighting federal spending."

Meanwhile, the campaign of Carly Fiorina said that, like Brown, she wasn't a Washington insider.

"Carly is the only political outsider running," said Julie Soderland, a Fiorina spokeswoman. "We believe that is the distinguishing factor."

And Chuck DeVore's campaign said it had done the most to support Brown, directing its backers to make calls for Brown prior to election day.

In an interview, DeVore said that "there is a direct line that can be drawn" between his campaign and Brown.

DeVore spokesman Joshua Trevino said that Brown "will be for some time the most in-demand Republican on the planet. Every office-seeker from a dog catcher in Ohio to a Senate candidate in California will want him to come out."

But, he said, DeVore has not asked Brown to come to California in order to boost his campaign, which lags behind both Campbell's and Fiorina's.

In Connecticut, Republican Senate candidates Linda McMahon and Rob Simmons have been comparing themselves to Brown: McMahon labeled herself an outsider, and Simmons called himself a deficit hawk who is strong on national defense.

Even Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has had Brown tape a message of support. The 2008 GOP presidential nominee, who has been in the Senate for 30 years, is trying to ward off a primary challenge from the right.

Brown's victory convinced Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, to take another shot at recruiting high-profile Republicans to run against established Democrats. He has approached Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) about challenging Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh.

And there is speculation that Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate majority leader, could face a new Republican challenger, Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki. Krolicki's entry could make Reid's tough reelection fight even more difficult.

Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the GOP Senate committee, said he expected Brown's win to help the GOP in tight races against Democrats in Colorado, New Hampshire and Ohio.

"This has provided a lot of energy for the party," Walsh said.

joliphant@latimes.com

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